KARACHI: The visually-impaired students now will be able to write on their own, in Braille, for intermediate exams, starting from May 7, according to the chairman of the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK).
Chairman Anwar Ahmed Zai made this announcement at the launch of Braille textbooks at Ida Rieu Welfare Association on Tuesday. He was invited as the chief guest.
Twenty-three Braille text books, from grade one till five, were on display. All of them were transcribed by a team of experts associated with the association’s Hatim Alavi Memorial Braille Library, headed by Jameela Majeed.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Zai said that till last year, BIEK only allowed visually-impaired students to give exams only if they brought in a writer to whom they could dictate what to write. “Now they will have a choice to either give their exam in Braille or dictate the answers to a writer,” he said.
He said that a meeting has been called on April 30 to decide on a number of technical issues, including evaluation and assessment of the answer scripts written in Braille and the availability of experts for checking the answer sheets. The board intends to invite all institutions which offer facilities for the visually-impaired.
The students who opt for Braille will also be given half an hour extra, just like the students who bring writer with them. “The board exempts the fee of students with disabilities and they can even submit their examination forms just a week before exams,” he said.
Speaking about Ida Rieu, BIEK chairman lauded the association’s services in facilitating the people with special needs. He said that institutions like the Ida Rieu provided a new lease of life to the hopeless parents of children with disabilities. “What’s surprising is the dedication and devotion for the cause when I hear teachers say that they only work here to fill up their afterlife cashbooks.”
Ida Rieu’s principal, Qudsia Khan, told The Express Tribune that the she had been trying to get the education boards to allow Braille since 1974. She said it also helps in maintaining transparency it would help in maintaining transparency in the examination system. “The writer system has been commercialized. Many people charge a fee for sitting with a candidate,” she said. “They charge between Rs2,000 and Rs,5000 and also make promises to do well in exams.”
With the introduction of Braille writing system, according to Khan, the trained staff at special-education institutions will be able to evaluate students’ answer scripts. “Finding experts is not a problem,” she said. “Around 35 lecturers and professors, who specialise in teaching the –impaired are present in different institutions.”
She said that the system was used all over the world but had died in Pakistan after cassette tapes and talking devices became common. Khan termed early Braille education as being “crucial to literacy” for a visually-impaired. “The people who learn Braille at an early age can compete well with their sighted peers because it helps in building up vocabulary and comprehension.”
Not teaching a visually-impaired child Braille means that you dispose of and opportunity for him or her to read thousands of available Braille books worldwide.
She lamented that a gap had been created between teachers and students over the years. However, the Ida Rieu has been working to bridge this gap, she said. Apart from conducting Braille courses for both, teachers and parents, the association’s library had also transcribed around 300 Urdu classics over the time.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.